RockHound Tshirts

Filed under: regular postings — Gary October 27, 2010 @ 10:57 pm


RockHound t-shirts

RockHoundBlog t-shirts

Geology t-shirts

Lapidary T-shirts

(email me with ideas/wants/needs for rockhound themed t-shirts)

I am in the process of designing/making RockHoundBlog t-shirts.  The proceeds will go to a  rockhound friend who is trying to raise money  for a cutting edge  MS surgery (CCSVI).

She has a blog that is recounting her life with MS (Multiple Sclerosis) and is starting from the beginning and telling it like it is.  Very interesting to say the least.  Stop by and wish her luck… (MS trip)


Rockhound Fundraiser

Good luck Paula!

Washington State Jade Rendezvous

Filed under: regular postings — Gary September 17, 2010 @ 8:59 am
North Fork of the Stilliguamish

North Fork of the Stilliguamish

Ezekiel Hughes The Washington State Jade Rendezvous is being held this September the 17th-19th on the North Fork of the Stilliguamish. It is an informal gathering of the local jade community. It is being held on private property so it is invite only and RSVPing is required (“maybe” is OK) There is some camping space available and …individuals are encouraged to bring thier jades and “jades” rough or carved…or have their finds ID’ed. Folks may also set up a table or small booth if they wish to display thier collection or work…though this isn’t a commercial festival. There is no fee but you need to bring your own everything except firewood…that’s covered. The Squire Creek campgrounds are also available for overflow…or folks can just stop by and discuse jade for a few. One of the purposes of the gathering is to discuse the future of Washington State jade and gather resources for a future Washington State Jade Art Festival. To get on the RSVP list, individuals need to email me…I will then send you the directions and other details):
or contact me through Facebook:Ezekiel Hughes:
“Friend” me or request to join the RSVP Facebook: Group:

the Facebook page is also the place to make suggestions or offer to help. Currently we have about 60-75 showing up.

Gold Panning vacation – California

Filed under: regular postings — Gary September 16, 2010 @ 11:30 am

I was told about this fun family place to try your hand at gold panning.  I am going to check this out myself when I ever get down to California.

Visit Roaring Camp Mining Co.
in the California Mother Lode

Gold Panning California

Gold panning vacation

Roaring Camp is something special in the way of family recreation. It is an old goldmining camp on the Mokulmne River. In the past, it was accessibly only by horseback. Roaring Camp was once a camp for Forty Niners, but since it was so inaccessible, most of the gold still remains. Visitors can see our operating gold mine an can mine their own gold by panning, sluicing, dredging, and dry washing.

Panning - Don’t worry if you don’t own a gold pan yet. We carry our patented gold pan in our general store. It is the one featured at the top corner of this site (but you supply the gold!)

GOLD BEARING GRAVEL PILES This material is dug off bedrock and run through our screening plant removing the larger rocks (non-gold bearing material). We will supply a sluice box, water, settling pond and necessary equipment for your mining. Water will be supplied for approximately 3 hours per day (1 1/2 hours in the morning and 1 1/2 hours in the afternoon) and will take about 5 to 6 days to remove the gold from your operation. Piles are limited, advance reservations are recommended.

Gold panning

Gold panning pics

DREDGING - One dredge, 5″ maximum, or one equivelant piece of mining equipment per cabin is allowed. No limit on pans, sluice etc.

Everyone works together on the common operation and the gold found is divided equally between participants. Includes use of all mining equipment and the help from Roaring Camp’s Crew. Cost is $275 per person, plus cabin rent.


Rock Collecting: There are miles of unexplored canyon where you may find quartz crystals, jade, jasper, river rubies, arrowheads, etc.


Gold Map

Gold Map

Inquiries are always welcome!

Telephone: 209-296-4100


US Mail: PO Box 278, Pine Grove, CA 95665

Located just off Hwy 88 in Pine Grove.

Take Tabeau Road approximately 1/2 mile to Roaring Camp Office.

You are welcome to call for directions!




Empress of Uruguay-Worlds Largest Amethyst Geode

Filed under: regular postings — Gary September 15, 2010 @ 10:22 pm

The Empress of Uruguay – Frequently Asked Questions.

How much does it weigh?
2,500 kilograms, or 2.5 tonnes. That’s a lot more than a large family car and as heavy as TWO small cars! When The Empress arrived at The Crystal Caves in November 2007, two large cranes were needed to lift her into her current position.

How tall is it?
She is big! The Empress stands 327 centimetres or 3.27 metres tall. That’s nearly 11 feet in the ‘old money’.

What happened to the other half?
After being mined and brought to the surface (which took nearly three months) the front of this giant Geode was carefully removed in very small sections to reveal the beauty you now see. Those small pieces were all sold from the turntable display upstairs in the Amethyst room in the Fascinating Facets Gift Shop. Take a look when you visit, some may still be there!

Is it all real?
The Empress is very real. Because she is so perfect in every detail, some people doubt that such a thing could occur naturally and that she is in some way ‘man-made’ or enhanced in some way. Some even suggest that perhaps the Amethyst crystals have been hand made by jewellers and then put into place in the Geode! In fact there has been no polishing or enhancement of any kind and the Empress is totally natural. Apart from the removal of the front to expose the interior, smoothing of the rough exposed edge and a coat of black paint on the exterior back, she is exactly as nature made her, deep under the ground.

What about those crystals?
Each of the thousands of beautiful crystals were formed inside the Geode exactly as you see them now. They are unusual crystals because they are rated as “AA jewellery quality”, because of their deep purple colour, and their pristine condition. Keen observers will also note some large, beautiful white Calcite crystals that seem to be emerging from among the Amethyst. The geologists tell us that the calcite crystals were formed inside the Empress first, and then at some later period, the Amethyst crystals grew and ‘smothered’ most of the Calcite. Indeed, the visible Calcite crystals show signs of Amethyst growing on them, which would support this theory.

Empress of Uruguay

Empress of Uruguay

How did you get it here?

The Empress had a special crate constructed tightly around her, at the mine in Uruguay, and this was then secured in her own steel container and shipped out of Brazil to Brisbane. Following the 1600km road trip to us here, huge cranes were used to remove her from the container and to gently place here in her current position. The “Empress Room” was then built around her. A lot of work and expense, but all well worth it!
How much did it cost and how much is it worth?
We paid US$75,000 for the Empress in late 2007, and at least another $25,000 getting her here and set up as you see her now. We have since received substantial offers from people wanting to buy her. She is reputedly now valued at over A$250,000, but she is not for sale.

Why here?
Many people say they are surprised to see something so rare and “Special” in Atherton, rather than in Sydney, Paris or some other international city. When she was first found in that mine in Uruguay, she was first offered to our founder and still current owners, René and Nelleke Boissevain, because the Boissevains are long standing customers of this particular mine. René didn’t hesitate for very long before making the purchase. So the Empress is here because she is the most prized addition to the already impressive mineral collection belonging to our founders. René and Nelleke made Atherton their home back in the sixties, and so it is also the home of the collection, and of the Empress.

Goto the site:

The Art of Gembone: Fossil + Gem

Filed under: regular postings — Gary @ 9:51 pm

These macrophotography prints are perhaps the first gembone photographs to be featured in an art exhibit. Each photograph is a closeup of a polished section of dinosaur gembone ranging from one inch to six inches in diameter. The gembone pieces are wet with water and a brush prior to being photographed to enhance the color and contrast of the picture. The photos provide a connection to a special time in our earth’s history. In these colors and patterns, the magnificence of both the dinosaur and the incredible geological processes of our planet converge. It is amazing that such a rare natural wonder, created slowly over the course of 150 million years, can be appreciated artistically by human beings today.

August 23 at 9:00am – October 8 at 8:00pm

This is a gallery show with some of my macrophotography that will be running through October 8th. There is a reception on Sunday, September 19th from 2:00-4:00pm.

Scanlan Gallery, St. Stephen’s Episcopal School, Austin, TX

6500 St. Stephen’s Drive
Austin, TX

Matt Hannon


Matt Hannon

“The Art of Jurassic Gembone: Nature’s Most Colorful Fossils” Features Photographs of Rare, Multicolored Dinosaur Bones

Austin, TX – September 2010 – “The Art of Jurassic Gembone: Nature’s Most Colorful Fossils” will be on display at the Nancy Wilson Scanlan Gallery from August 23 to October 8,2010. The exhibit, by artist Matt Hannon, will feature macrophotography prints of vibrantly colored dinosaur gembone from the Butler-Han…non Fossil Collection.

Hannon’s photography attempts to capture the unique patterns and colors of gembone, focusing on its artistic — rather than scientific — appeal. “The visual impact of these fossils is stunning,” says Hannon. “It’s hard to believe that they were created by nature’s own design over hundreds of millions of years.”

Gembone fossils are very rare. Unlike most dinosaur bones found today, gembones fossilized among gem-quality minerals, giving them vivid colors and patterns. They are primarily found in Colorado and Utah, but have on occasion been found in Texas as well.


Gembones have been described as the most rare and most beautiful fossils in the world... Simply defined, a gembone is the fossil of an animal bone that contains gem quality minerals. Gembone is also commonly referred to as mineralized dinosaur bone, silicified dinosaur bone and agatized fossil.

“The Art of Jurassic Gembone” presents a nexus of Art and Science. Art lovers will be drawn to the bold colors and patterns within the pieces, while science lovers will enjoy the opportunity to examine some of nature’s greatest treasures up close.

Matt Hannon is a digital media artist and filmmaker who lives in Austin, TX. “The Art of Jurassic Gembone: Nature’s Most Colorful Fossils” is the first showing of the gembone imagery captured for his upcoming documentary film “Gembone: Nature’s Most Beautiful Fossils.”

For more information, please contact Beatrice Baldwin, Scanlan Gallery curator at (512) 327-1213 ex. 135, or visit

Agates From Argentina – Rockhounding

Filed under: regular postings — Gary @ 10:50 am

I bumped into some really interesting people on Facebook and they told me they wanted to tell their story.  Mining agates in Argentina, very cool!

During the past several years, we have been looking for agates in our country, Argentina. The main sources are located in the following three regions:
1- Cuyo Region (commercially known as “Condor” agates);
2- Patagonia Region (Patagonian agates – this region is separated from the rest of the regions in Argentina by the Rio Colorado or in English, the Red River).
3- Mesopotamia Region (where “Entre Rios“ agates are found).

The climates, wildlife and landscapes are completely different in each of these regions




The above picture shows a source of agate near San Rafael City, Mendoza Province, about 30 kilometers from the main road. No cell Phones work here. The landscape is not very “friendly”; it has thorny bushes and precipices so that it is advisable to watch your step. I slipped twice here with my back-pack and slid on my back for about 3 meters . That hurt! There are no dangerous animals here. Although there are tons of agates here, it is not easy to find really good ones.

Mining agates

Agate that we had to dig because there were no more agates on the surface.

Same agate wet.

Same agate wet.

Agates found by the end of the day . They looked fine, but were disappointing after they were cut.

Agates found by the end of the day . They looked fine, but were disappointing after they were cut.

Good example of a Cuyean agate.

Good example of a Cuyean agate.







This is our favorite place to hunt for agates.

The landscape is beautiful, horizon is endless, no one around, just animal traces of foxes, Guanacos (like a Llama), and ostridges. It is a very lonely place where no sounds of motors, people (even airplanes) are heard. Of course once you are there, you are on your own. There is no dangerous wildlife here. Although during March, we found a poisonous snake (really unusual) and some Black Widow Spiders that are more common. We travel more often to this area than to other sources in Argentina. The distance from our home in Buenos Aires to one of the sources is of approximately 2400 kilometers. We often drive about 6,000 kilometers for an entire trip.

One of the sources in the Patagonia Region

One of the sources in the Patagonia Region

Patagonia Agate source during Summer

Patagonia Agate source during Summer

Patagonia Agate source during Winter

Patagonia Agate source during Winter

Rios Province

Inside a Natural Reserve near the agate sources. Entre Rios Province is about 400 kilometers from Buenos Aires. Agates here are abundant, but quality agates are very scarce with less 2% being “collector grade”.

Uruguay river

Uruguay River, natural border between Uruguay and Argentina. There is a dangerous and poisonous snake here called the Yarará (Bothrops alternatus)that attacks on sight. Fortunately they can be easily seen because of their bright colors. mountain of agates

The following shows a mountain of agates in an agate mill . These agates are now being grinded up to build a very long highway to Brazil.

Rios Agate

Some of the agates look very similar to Brazilian Agates. Sometimes, and after cutting several hundreds of kilos of “Entre Rios” Agates, something unusual might appear.


The following pictures are of slices in our new “experiment”.


The following pictures are hand Polished agates from Entre Rios Province - this is also a new “experiment”.

When traveling Northwards towards the Brazilian Border, agates get bigger and quality gets lower. Brazilian agates are dyed for ornamental purposes, but the obtained colors are not found in Nature.
As during the last five years , we will be exhibiting our new agates in Tucson Mineral and Fossil Show 2011 at the INN SUITES HOTEL , Room 223 (Behind the Grape-Fruit tree)

Ricardo & Claudia Birnie

RockHoundBlog is on Facebook

Filed under: regular postings — Gary August 30, 2010 @ 9:13 am

Come by and say hello.  Submit ideas for posts and say hello or tell us a rockhound story..

How to find

Rock Houndblog

Rock Houndblog

Build Your Own Gold Sluice Box and High Banker

Filed under: regular postings — Gary August 10, 2010 @ 4:12 am

Here are some great videos that show how to build your own sluice box and high banker.

Do It Yourself Gold Sluice Box

Build your own sluice box

Build your own sluice box

Build your own sluice box

Make a sluice box for gold

Make a sluice box for gold

Another here

Build a High Banker

Build a High Banker

Build a High Banker

Build a High Banker


Feed your gold-bearing gravel into the upper portion of the sluice box in carefully regulated amounts. Do not, under any circumstances, dump a large amount of gravel into the sluice box all at once! The gravel must be fed at a pace that will not overload the riffles. How can you tell when the riffles are overloading? It is simple. If you cannot see the uppermost “crest” of each riffle bar at all times, you are feeding the gravel too fast. Back off a bit. The use of a 1/4 inch classifier screen to pre-screen material before dumping into the sluice box can save much time and effort. The penalty for overloading your riffles often resullts in lost gold! Each time a new load of gravel is dumped into a sluice box with overloaded riffles, any gold in that gravel will wash right over the material that is clogging your riffles and out the discharge end of the box.

How To Make Amber

Filed under: regular postings — Gary @ 3:25 am

Make your own amber fossil

Want your own piece of amber but don’t have the money to buy a sample? Here’s a way to make your own fake amber

You Will Need

A dead insect (look on window ledges or on spider webs)
Plastic pop bottle cap
clear nail polish
food colouring
tweezers or needle-nose pliers

What To Do

1. Place the pop bottle cap, empty side up on the newspaper.
2. Use the tweezers to drop the dead insect into the empty cap
3. Place several drops of yellow food colouring into the clear nail polish. Close the polish and shake to mix the colour. If you wish you can also add a drop of red food colouring to the polish to make a more amber colour
4. Drip the polish over the dead bug and put in a safe, out of the way place to dry.

This was submitted by a reader.  I have not tried this myself but please email me results if you try.



Quick Tip: Telling real Amber from Plastic forgeries…. One of the simplest non-destructive tests that you can do yourself is to clean and taste the specimen. Carefully washing with soap and water, then with just water, should leave a clean specimen ready for this test. Lick the specimen slowly several times, allowing the subtle taste to linger. It should be extremely subtle – real amber has almost no taste at all, leaving at most a very slight, tingly sensation. We think this “taste” may actually be just a touch sensation, not a true response of the taste buds. Most plastic or other polymer forgeries, on the other hand, carry a distinctly nasty taste that screams, “Imitation!” Don’t be fooled, remembering this simple taste test can save you considerable trouble in your adventures with amber.


Filed under: regular postings — Gary July 27, 2010 @ 9:37 pm

gemology links in alphabetical order

Accredited Gemologists Association
is a nonprofit research, education and ethics organization benefiting professional and avocation gemologists as well as consumer interest

Alexandrite Gemstone Buyer and Collectors Guide
history, sources, valuation and collection of alexandrite gemstones. Topics also include chemical and physical properties, mythology, and color change phenomena as well as alexandrite synthetics and imitations

American Gem Society
m embers of the American Gem Society are dedicated to providing the most knowledgeable service to their customers

American Gem Trade Association
the AGTA is an association of US and Canadian colored gemstone and cultured pearl industry professionals dedicated to promoting the natural colored gemstone trade

Asian Institute of Gemological Sciences (AIGS)
located in Bangkok, Thailand, founded in 1978 as Southeast Asia’s first educational and research institute devoted exclusively to the training of students in the scientific and practical aspects of gemology and the gem trade

Canadian Gemmological Association
Canada’s professional organization for the practice of gemmology. Website contains information about the organization, including information on membership, products, meeting times, annual Gem Conferences and more.

Centre de Recherche Gemmologique
the Gemological Research Center at the University of Nantes

Italian centre for information and services in gemmology. As well as carrying out its principal work of analysis, the Centre provides extensive information on gemmology, through courses, conferences, publications

DeMello Gemological National Laboratory
Providing expert gemological testing and related appraisal services for consumers, gemstone buyers, collectors, legal counsel and law inforcement

Europe’s leading institute for training and research concerning gemmology since 1932

L’Ecole des Gemmes
Centre de formation qualifiante en gemmologie. Allied teaching center of the Gemmological Association of Great Britain in France.

Field gemology
dedicated to people sharing an equal passion for gems, gemology and traveling

Gem and Jewelry Institute of Thailand
Bangkok-based government gem lab and school

gemological laboratory based in the Principality of Liechtenstein offering laboratory services

Gemlab Inc.
Research and development high-tech gem treatment laboratory, short courses in gem treatments, fabrication of gem instruments and gem treating equipment, books, etc.

Gemmes Inclusions
Photographs of inclusions in gemstones. Also covers treated stones, syntheses, doublets.

Gemmological Association and Gem Testing Laboratory of Great Britain
gives details of courses, tutotials, workshops, exam details and dates, trips and other special events, lectures etc.

Gemmological Association of All Japan
Japan’s leading gemmological educational institution

Gemmological Association of Australia
Australia’s traditional gemmological educator since 1945

Gemmological Society of South Africa
promotes fair trade and full disclosure by all gemstone traders

Gemmology in Scotland
Scottish Branch of the Gemmological Association

Gemmology World
Canadian Institute of Gemmology

Gem Nantes Gemmologie à Nantes
diverses formations en gemmologie (DUG et programmes courts) et les activités de recherche scientifique en gemmologie

The Gemology Project
non-profit gemstone and gem science wiki-style database for anyone interested in gemstones and gemology

Gemstone Identification Chart
analyze the results got with the refractometer, polariscope, dichroscope, spectroscope, UV light, dichromatic filter, density scale, microscope and loupe, hardness tester

is an online guide to gemstone prices

GIA – Gemological Institute of America
the world’s largest and most respected nonprofit institute of gemological research and learning

Gübelin Gemmological Laboratories
Swiss gemmological laboratory

HRD (Hoge Raad voor Diamant)
Diamond High Council, Antwerp, Belgium

Instituto Brasileiro de Gemas e Metais Preciosos
private, non-profit association of Brazilian gemstone, jewellery and related industries

Institut Gemmologique de France
French gemological institute

Institut National de Gemmologie
The National Institute of Gemmology teaches over 500 persons a year and gives certifies over 100 persons each year (Brevet Professionnel, FEEG, Diploma of ING)

Instituto Gemológico Español
Spanish gemological institute

International Colored Gemstone Association
a non-profit association to represent the international gemstone industry

International Gem Society
dedicated to bringing quality information and educational services to everyone interested in gemstones

collection of gemstone related information like buying guide, recource directory, info on different gemstone species, etc.

Portuguese gemological laboratory

Laboratoire français de Gemmologie
French gemological laboratory in Paris
information on gemstones, collector stones and rare facetable minerals

Russian Gemological Server
information on business, research and educational projects in gemology

Swiss Gemmological Institute
part of the Swiss Foundation for the Research of Gemstones, founded by trade organisations in 1974 and works independently on a scientific basis